This article is the first of a three part series on how an IP strategy can be used in your business
Canaan Bridges Consulting| 7 min read
Can IP rights and innovation strategies help the circular and green economy?
Let’s take a closer look at four ways in which this may be possible:
One: IP Awareness among Green Innovators
It is all too familiar: a green entrepreneur has developed an innovative product, but lacks knowledge on how to transform the product into an IP asset. There is little to no inherent value in intellectual property without its commercialization. Before sound commercialization strategies are conceived a sensible question is: Is there IP in your green product? And, if so, what type of IP is it?
While it is not impossible to develop and commercialize IP without basic knowledge on the innovators part, an innovator armed with basic knowledge in the field, is likely to be more confident and knowledgeable in business pursuits. For example, knowing how to conduct prior art searches can save the green innovator time and money, where such searches shed questionable doubt on the novelty of a green invention. Further, knowing how to differentiate between different IP forms can equip green innovators with basic knowledge about which IP works best for their products. For instance, in some circumstances, it may be more advisable to use non-disclosure agreements (protected via trade secrets) to protect valuable data and processes than using patent rights. The dissemination of relevant IP knowledge to key green stakeholders is therefore an important aspect of promoting sustainable innovation for a green future.
Two: Building Connections with the Circular Economy
Most of us have heard of the circular economy. In the context of innovation, the circular economy is all about how existing products can be repurposed for new uses, how existing waste materials can be regenerated to create sustainable byproducts, and how existing infrastructure/resources are revitalized for uses that greatly benefit people and our environment. The new year (2021) will likely bring new business ideas and interests to entrepreneurs. In this space, opportunities for creating inventions, designs, brands, and even new agricultural products are open possibilities. The use of IP to leverage circular and green benefits is possible in several ways. Two innovative ways are (i) IP can be used to create strong assets out of the products created. For example, if your firm builds electric trucks, and you have created a new design for all or a portion of the truck (eg. its bonnet, wheels or roof) the design may be registrable as an industrial design (design rights). A design right may add significant value to your portfolio.
The second point may be of interest to up-cycling enthusiasts who have a particular unique style in developing recreations. How useful is IP to this space? Trademarks are useful in differentiating your product/service offering from others. They are also great tools for leveraging your customer base, especially in digital platforms. If you employ persons or sub-contract portions of your up-cycling work to others: a non-disclosure agreement can be used to protect against the loss of secrets of your trade to others (trade secrets).
Three: Is there a Role for Green Patent Pools?
Patent pools enable patent owners to pool their patents together. Patent pools may consists of databases of complementary or substitute patents, available to users (licensees) for a fee. When it operates effectively, it enable licensees to obtain different patents necessary for a project a particular set price. In this context, it may reduce transaction costs. Complementary patent pools are usually preferred over patent substitutes, for reasons which will become clearer below.
Patent pools are not the standard in the green industry. However, it is one way of commercializing and managing IP, and may be worthwhile investigating its fit with specific green products. For example, can sustainable linkages be made between green technologies and patent pools? What benefits are available for an early entrepreneur in the clean technology space seeking to pool her patents with that of others in related but different industries? How will this work across jurisdictions?
One drawback of patent pools is that they may run afoul of anti-trust laws, particularly where the pool is mostly composed of patent substitutes. The reasoning behind this: when the patents are substitutes for each other, there is little or no incentive for others outside the pool to innovate in the field. The pools may therefore become a breeding ground for monopolistic behavior. Early green entrepreneurs considering patent pools should fully explore the costs and benefits of being a part of the collective.
Four: Connecting Global Networks towards sustainable outcomes
It is almost impossible to develop, successfully commercialize and effectively manage green innovation in silos. This also applies to innovation in the circular economy. Building sustainable global partnerships help innovators to remain viable long term businesses. While useful opportunities may emerge from similar-situated partnerships, a diversified interest group (multi-sector, multi-stakeholder focused) may be helpful in advancing the goals of innovators in the space. In this context, the focus is not just on IP related concerns, but may include human and financial capital, market access opportunities, and collaborations that secure IP interests in the long term. Sustainable partnerships are a plus to promoting the IP and innovation narrative in the global space. When well engineered and used along with other IP strategies, it embeds sustainability into every day conversations. The benefit? Strategic global partnerships can shift existing paradigms to more realistic and sustainable outcomes.
Canaan Bridges Consulting helps you in using IP and innovation strategies to leverage your customer base, your assets and business objectives.